We file into the room zombie style and take our seats. Seats that have all been thoughtfully laid out in a circle, so that we all face each other nice and cosily.
Or at least, that was probably the intention, but sitting here awkwardly in this huge cold hall doesn’t feel the slightest bit like cosy to me. We look lost at sea….and well maybe, metaphorically speaking, we are…
Standing in the centre of us Emma does a quick spin head count and realises she has two empty seats. ‘Oh, there’s two missing’ she mumbles and then excuses herself to go and look for the missing victims. Leaving us sat in total silence. Staring at our feet like we’ve just discovered for the first time in our lives that we have some.
Not for the first time today that voice in my head starts swearing at me angrily for making it come here today. Stupid, stupid decision it mocks.
The sound of the door swinging open breaks our silent foot admiration and in rushes a rather frazzled looking woman. “Sorry, sorry, have you been waiting for me?” she apologises as she squeezes herself into our circle and flumps herself down in the empty seat next to me. She smells of perfumed smoke. Which tells me that she too has had her rushed final cigarette outside but managed to find the time to try and mask it with a bottle of her favourite Chanel.
She smells of perfumed smoke. Which tells me that she too has had her rushed final cigarette outside but managed to find the time to try and mask it with a bottle of her favourite Chanel.
She turns and smiles at me, putting her hand on my knee as she rambles “oh my god, I really don’t know what I’m doing here! I only came because Dave won’t stop nagging me to stop smoking, but I really don’t have time to be here. It’s been such a rush, dropping the kids at school and everything in order to get here on time.”
I smile at her and wonder whether I should tell her that her breakfast rush is evident from the cornflake still stuck to her cardigan? “Oh sorry, I’m Rachel” she quickly added “You should probably know that I do tend to let my mouth run away with me sometimes” Really? I would never have guessed!
Now I’m not usually one for taking a liking to people who tell me their life story before telling me their name, but there’s something warm and open about this woman, and I think she might grow on me. Unlike her smell of smoky Chanel…which makes me wonder...just how much the perfume industry relies on the tobacco industry?…after all, us women at least, must spend just as much on perfume and mints as we do on cigarettes!
My perfumed thoughts are broken with the return of Emma and 60 a day man! How on earth did she manage to persuade him to come back!?! I thought he’d be running for the hills by now. Clearly, this woman has more persuasive powers than I first credited her with…maybe she will be able to stop us all from smoking.
“Ok” sighs Emma, “ I think that’s all of us here now, lovely” She smiles, a really genuine happy smile, looking at us like a mother would proudly look at her children. It’s quite comforting really…in a funny kind of way…and my defenses against her start to drop. Just slightly mind, ever so slightly.
“Right, so, I would like to start by telling you a little bit about what this stop smoking programme is all about”
“My name is Emma. I’ve been working with smokers for a long time and I believe I have developed, over that time, a much better way to help people. That is what I want to share with you today. I understand that stopping smoking isn’t easy, and I’m sure you’ve all got your own personal horror stories about your previous attempts to stop smoking. It’s hard isn’t it?”
We all roll our eyes and nod, remembering…not very fondly… our own unsuccessful attempts. I get a flashback of searching through the ashtray for a not quite finished butt and squeeze my eyes shut to block out the horror.
“The thing is, I believe I know a way to do it that makes it easy and that is what I want to share with you in this program you’re all here for” Emma carried on.
“I know you’re all frightened and nervous, and you’ll all be a little unsure about what is going to happen. After all, you don’t know me or what my approach is all about. All I ask is that you stick with me and I promise things will become much clearer as we progress. Now, does anyone have any questions?”
Frazzled Mum, Rachel, raises her hand “Are we supposed to stop smoking…like..now!?! Just I’m not sure I’m ready because well…I just can’t” I watch as she nearly crumples into a heap at the thought of never smoking again and was ready to join her in her protest
“No, no” replied Emma, “Please don’t worry. I know I didn’t make it clear in the information pack I sent out to you all. The thing is, I did that on purpose. I wanted you all to feel the fear of having cigarettes taken away from you before you’re ready. I needed you to understand that emotion to help you make sense of what I wanted to talk about today.”
“Can you all relate to that feeling of fear I’m talking about? The one that made you all try and smoke as much as possible before you got here?” That fear that made you all hate me before you even knew me because you looked at me as the one who would take your cigarettes away?”
We all raised our hands a little, looking around us to make sure everyone else was doing the same too. Then fully extending them once we realised we were not alone in our stupid fear.
All except one of us.
The gentleman who didn’t sat there smugly, with a mocking smile on his face “Not me” he said. “Nothing frightens me. I just do what I have to do”
“Riiight, ok” said Emma. Then can I ask you why you think you can’t stop smoking? “
“Quite simply because I don’t want to. I bloody well enjoy it” he retorted arrogantly. “Ah, I understand,” said Emma.
I’m pleased she did because I was sure as hell baffled as to why someone would come here who had no intention of stopping. To be completely honest with you this guy was making my cigarette need start to rise! I looked at Rachel next to me and she rolled her eyes..clearly as irritated as I was. I pondered the idea of removing that now, hard and crispy cornflake, from Rachels cardigan and stotting it off this mans head.
In the interests of stop smoking community spirit, I sat on my hands.
“Would you say you love smoking..more than anything else?” asked Emma. “Well, not more than anything else, no…but I do like and enjoy it!” he beamed. Clearly quite proud of himself for not having the same fear that we all did.
“Ah, that’s a shame “ sympathised Emma and what she said next wiped the smile off smug man’s face more than any crispy cornflake could do!